New Resolution: Spending 1 Hour/Day To Learn Something New

I felt uncomfortable recently because I think my academic life had been going on smoothly. I’m always scared of staying still in a comfort zone.  I believe that life is supposed to be difficult, and that I learn the most when I face difficulties in the things I do. Satisfaction is a dangerous feeling when it comes to mastering a subject.

Even worse, I had spent so many months without reading books to improve my skills & knowledge. Well I did read some novels but it was for leisure not for learning. I was literally asking myself where had I been in the past few months. How did I become a passive learner? I have always felt pity for people who never study outside of what’s given to them at school, but then I turned into one of them. I knew I would end up hating myself if I let it continues.

Since I can’t turn back the time and I need to make up for the loss time, I thought it’s best to make a resolution to improve myself. Starting this month, I will spend at least 1 hour per day to learn something new. No matter how busy I am, there should not be any excuse. So I dedicated a Trello Board for the backlog (yeah this to-do/WIP/done has become a way of life for me).

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I have officially started doing this initiative last weekend. So far it seems so good. In the last 3 days only I have finished 1 book and 3 online courses (I got so many done because I had nothing else to do). Hopefully this will continue.

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Keramaian di Tempat Sunyi dan Pertanyaan yang Muncul

Semua yang terjadi di bawah kolong langit adalah urusan setiap orang yang berpikir.” -Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Anak Semua Bangsa

Suatu malam di awal Januari 2018, saya hendak mengambil buku sudah saya request untuk pinjam di perpustakaan kampus. Terlihat saat itu kampus cukup ramai, dengan inflow rate yang lumayan banyak pula; walaupun saat itu masih winter holiday. Adik saya yang malam itu menemani ke kampus lalu bertanya-tanya: “kenapa orang-orang ke kampus disaat malam dan liburan begini? Kok rajin2 banget?!”

“Itulah kenapa UCL peringkat top 10 dunia, sementara ITB gak masuk 300 besar sama sekali.” jawab saya. Ya, di UCL perpustakaan kami buka sampai malam, dan bahkan buka 24 jam saat menjelang exam weeks. Selain itu, di luar library juga banyak lokasi lain di kampus yang bisa digunakan untuk belajar, seperti di graduate hub, atau pakai meja-meja di lorong. Sementara di perpustakaan pusat ITB? Jam 7 malam aja mahasiswa sudah diusir. Perpusatakaan fakultas saya dulu (STEI ITB) malah lebih parah lagi; jam 4 sore sudah tutup!

Bukannya protes atau mencari-cari alasan kenapa ITB masih jauh menuju world-class universities, tetapi sesungguhnya di UCL saya merasa termotivasi untuk belajar lebih rajin karena saya melihat orang-orang berdatangan ke library. Ditambah lagi, saya tahu bahwa kalau saya ke kampus, saya bisa belajar di tempat yang proper, dengan suasana yang proper, dengan orang-orang yang juga bertujuan sama: belajar. Keramaian (dalam hal jumlah orang) di library dan suasana yang selalu kondusif ternyata membuat saya nyaman untuk belajar dan juga kagum karena orang-orang disini memang suka belajar. Saya langsung merasa bahwa saya berada di tempat yang tepat.

Di luar kampus, masih banyak juga public library yang bisa dijadikan alternatif tempat belajar. Tempat-tempat tersebut bisa didatangi dengan gratis, dan kadang punya beberapa fasilitas yang tidak ada di perpusatakaan kampus. Contohnya di Barbican Music Library, tempat favorit belajar saya belakangan ini, terdapat dua buah digital piano yang bisa dimainkan secara cuma-cuma. Kerennya lagi, koleksi buku piano solo disana sangat lengkap, sehingga saya bisa latihan piano selagi break belajar. Lucunya di tempat ini banyak sekali lansia, dan tidak jarang mereka juga berlatih main piano.  Kadang terlihat juga beberapa lansia menghadiri acara di Barbican Centre (gedung yang sama) yang merupakan salah satu dari banyak performing arts centre di London. Melihat hal tersebut saya jadi berpikir bahwa enak juga jadi lansia di UK, mereka punya banyak hiburan yang lebih berfaedah daripada nge-mall. (Trivial fact: berdasarkan data dari World Bank, life expectancy orang indonesia itu 12 tahun dibawah orang UK loh)

Anyway, mungkin saya norak karena baru pertama kali tinggal di negara maju, but I always love to think about the cause-effect relationships of things, and why something becomes what it is. Kenapa Indonesia gak punya kampus yang bagus (secara peringkat dunia)? Kenapa negara kita jauh tertinggal? Padahal di kelas kyknya saya termasuk yg lumayan pintar, dan overall teman-teman saya di ITB dulu 11:12 lah dibanding peers saya dikelas saat ini (saya sampai sempat curhat ke teman saya di universitas dan negara lain: “apa gw salah kampus ya kok temen2 kelas gw gak pintar2 banget sih?” dan mereka semua bilang bahwa hal yang sama pernah terbesit di pikiran mereka, dan mereka menyimpulkan kalau memang anak ITB pintar kok!).

Namun sesungguhnya pandangan saya sangatlah bias. Masalahnya, saya cuma pernah merasakan pendidikan di ITB  yang notabena institut terbaik bangsa dan sebelumnya saya sekolah di sekolah-sekolah unggulan di ibukota. Jadi, sepertinya teman-teman Indonesia saya yang saya bilang 11:12 dengan teman-teman sekelas saya di UCL itu adalah sebagian sangat kecil kaum terdidik dari populasi Indonesia yang melebihi 250 juta orang. (another fact: menurut data dari BPS, Angka Partisipasi Sekolah penduduk usia 19-24 tahun di tahun 2017 tidak melebihi 25%)

Lalu muncul pertanyaan, what will it take to change?

(Disclaimer: tulisan ini bukan dibuat untuk memprotes atau men-downplay siapapun, melainkan hanya buah pemikiran dari apa yang dilihat dan dirasa belakangan ini.)

 

Retrospective: The Pains and Mistakes I’m Thankful For

It’s funny when I think about how useful are the subtle tasks I’ve done in the past in helping me to go through present challenges. It was a hard time to change my behavior and push myself to complete the tasks. I never knew I would be extremely thankful for that opportunity.

Getting close beyond work hours to the people I was working with, editing presentation slides after getting feedbacks from the bosses, dealing with the genius jerks & demotivated co-workers, or explaining our projects to non-technical audience and trying to negotiate deadlines. At that time those experiences didn’t feel convenient; I felt like I was not being myself by trying to face conflicts or doing works that were completely irrelevant with my job descriptions. I kept being stretched out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it was worth all the pains and times spent.

But to think of it, the most valuable lessons actually came from the failures. If I, or my team, didn’t make those mistakes, I probably would not have learnt as much. So thank you for giving me rooms for trials and errors even though everyone else was doing perfectly well. Thank you for trusting me to fix my mistakes. Thank you for giving me the responsibilities that most people at my age could not have. These remind me that such opportunities were the reason I chose to work at a tech startup. More importantly, it taught me to deliver nothing less than my best efforts.

 

 

2nd Week of Studying in The UK: What ITB Can Learn

I know it’s early to conclude anything since I’ve just started my study at UCL 2 weeks ago. Nevertheless, I love the education system here. It just opens my eyes how Indonesian universities are so left behind, far left behind. Here’s a few things I like about pursuing education here, and how it compares with my undergrad experience in Institut Teknologi Bandung:

  1. The lecturers here are willing to spend time for their students. They list their office hours so students can come to discuss class materials and stuff. Moreover, they reply to our email! wow! almost never happen in ITB. They also always encourage us to ask questions and share our opinion in class. I never had such discussion in class during my undergrad. And oh, of course, the module’s materials are up-to-date. It seems like they put a lot of time & effort to prepare it.
  2. Integrated and Single-sign-on system. I can access all the university’s services (e-mail, e-learning, printing, etc.) using one single credential. For someone like me, whose undergrad campus only have several fragmented e-learning systems, 2 different email accounts (in different platforms too!), and no integrated services at all (at least during my time there), I feel amazed by how well-planned is the IT system here.
  3. Careers Service. I feel like the career team & consultants really care about us. They arranged employer engagement session so we can find out more about and network with potential employers. The companies invited are well-known and varied. We can also book a 1-on-1 session to consult about careers or ask them to review our CV, or even practice interview. I remember how I was really lost on my senior year because there was no place to go to consult about career options. But here, everything’s different; I believe we got almost everything we need to prepare for life after graduation.
  4. Reading list. It’s kinda related to point #1 too, but I want to tell more about this one in particular. I know it’s silly, and sometimes I hate having too many reading list as there’s just not enough time to read everything. However, having this reading list help me to understand more about the materials and force me to come to the class fully-prepared. It helps me to be more engaged with the materials & the discussion. It makes me aware of what’s going on outside, and sort of connect the dots between the theory and the real practice.

It is beyond obvious that Indonesian universities still have a lot to improve. Despite ITB being a top ranked university for engineering courses in Indonesia, having a very low acceptance rate, and whose students labeled as “putra-putri terbaik bangsa”, there are just too many flaws. I hope ITB can improve significantly in the near future. What’s the point of having the smartest students in the country if you can’t give them the best education services to help them build their future.

New Home, New City, New Lifestyle

I recently moved to London to pursue master’s degree. Although initially I was looking to rent en-suite room and planning my budget based on it, I changed my mind at last time to instead rent a shared flat. I think this is a good opportunity for me to be more mature, to learn how to share & live harmoniously with other people. I’ve always had problems with that and I hope this time I can adjust myself well.

I am now learning to make my bed in the morning, to extend my cooking ability, and to do what I consider “dirty tasks” such as cleaning. I realized now that I am not so independent after all. There are things I cannot do, but I am trying to acquire that fundamental survival skills now. More importantly, I learn how to live on a budget and buy only the things I really need, despite getting a quite big allowance from my parents. I want to avoid buying stuff just because I can afford it.

So goodbye comfortable life. Goodbye not-having-to-take-care-of-my-room life. No more spending big money just for the pleasure of it. Although I might be previously known as a hedonist, I’ll try to not live up that label anymore. From now on, I’ll learn to be a more modest person.

Trashes

I was on a big music festival in Jakarta last weekend. After enjoying the performance of Phoenix, me & the crowd moved away from the stage. There I saw lots of trashes around. How come people decided to just dispose it irresponsibly? The trash cans weren’t hard to find. The only possibility is that they made a conscious decision to do so. They just didn’t care.

So they can afford a quite expensive tickets but don’t possess the moral consciousness to throw trash on its place? How ridiculous. What a pity. Such a shame for the young generation who can actually be categorized as middle-high class (because they or probably their parents can afford the expensive tickets). I wonder whether they’ve ever received any education.

Thoughts On Starting A Career

When I started my very first full-time job 2 years ago, my boss told me that in order to be successful, I gotta be so damn good early in my career. He didn’t elaborate more about it. But now, after working with a lot of different individuals, being exposed to a lot of projects, and having to solve various problems, I finally got a grasp on how to be considered “so damn good”.

I think there 3 important things to assess when you’re working with someone:

  1. experience
  2. intelligence
  3. work ethics

Early in your career, you obviously won’t have the experience & expertise to do the job. However, it can be compensated if you have high intelligence (which means you learn fast and excel quickly) and good work ethics (which means you will be giving your all to do the work). Once a new onboard has these traits, I’ll definitely bring him into the light and help him blossom.

But some people are smarter than others. And the geniuses are usually the jerks. So if you’re not a genius, you can still stand out if you have a super good work ethics; and that’s what I keep telling my sister. You gotta be more hungry than the others, so that you’ll be unique and they’ll remember you.

As you’re exposed to a lot more projects and people, you start to understand things and people more, and then you build some kind of self-dictionary and you call it experience. Some people are lucky enough to progress faster than the other. As a result, they got more experience in shorter time. But there is also another element called age maturity, and when mixed into your experience it can become something irreplaceable. Later you’ll be thankful if you meet a boss or mentor who are a lot older than you are and whose experience are still closely relevant with today’s situation. Such boss or mentor often know what to do and can make the correct decision. They’re the people whom with you can pickup some useful lessons and inspirations.

At least that’s what I think after 2 years+ of running a full-time job. The starter will always be yourself, your eagerness, and your hard-work. But how far and how fast you can go will often depend on who you’re working with and who’s leading the way.

“It makes a difference, doesn’t it, whether we fence ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of others.”